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The gold standard for diagnosing melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, is the biopsy. However, this procedure can cause skin trauma and is not always reliable. Photoacoustic imaging (PAI) has a great potential to noninvasively image the skin by combining the high contrast of optical imaging with the depth potential of ultrasound imaging. Previous PAI studies on melanoma use melanin as an endogenous contrast agent. However, melanin is found in both benign nevi and melanoma. Thus, we have developed an exogenous contrast agent using an organic fluorescent dye conjugated to a melanoma-specific biomarker for better specificity and sensitivity. The fluorescent dye is an indocyanine based dye (IRDye800cw) that is nontoxic, is small enough to penetrate through tumor bulk, and can effectively be cleared from the body. The biomarker is a galectin-3 antibody that binds to galectin-3, a protein that has been shown to be significantly higher in primary cutaneous melanoma cells. We call this approach the Specific Melanoma Antigen Radiomics of Tumors with PhotoAcoustic Imaging (S.M.A.R.T. – PAI).


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